A new helicopter product has been launched in Rwanda, allowing guests to book single-seat flights as opposed to hiring the whole aircraft.

Akagera Aviation announced the launch of the product on a television interview with CNBC Africa that was broadcast on May 14, as its contribution to Rwanda’s goal of doubling current tourism revenues by 2024.

Patrick Nkulikiyimfura, Managing Director of Akagera Aviation, said: “We thought of coming out with a product that was much more flexible, and the aim is to increase the number of days that the tourists spend in this country. We’re planning to cover the three national parks, namely the Akagera Park, Volcanoes Park and Nyungwe Forest. The average time a tourist spends here is usually four days and we want to increase that to seven days, by coming up with a package that is flexible, and that is affordable.”

Nkulikiyimfura explained that usually the full helicopter would be hired out, but by selling single seats, the cost of flying between the three parks reduced from between $3 000 and $4 000 for the full craft, to between $250 and $280 per person. “That’s the aim – to increase the visibility of the parks that we have, and at the same time make the tourists stay longer and experience Rwanda from a completely overall point of view.”

Akagera Aviation would be planning packages with RwandAir, other travel agencies, and tour operators across the country, he said. “We have 64 tour operators in Rwanda, and the aim is to tell them that, even if they did not use us before, this is a package that is much more flexible.”

Managing Director of Thousand Hills Africa, Manzi Kayihura, said one of the problems faced before the introduction of this product was the driving distances: “Not everyone wants to drive. If you drive one way and book a per-seat charter back, it changes the whole experience for the tourist. There’s already a demand for charters, but now that there is the option of per-seat selling, there’s a huge demand for it – it’s a great idea and we’re very excited about it.”

Belize Kariza, Chief Tourism Officer of the Rwanda Development Board, added: “A product like this can increase the length of stay for the tourists, because they’ll be able to do a circuit, visiting the three national parks that we have in the country in the most convenient and affordable way. So what we had before this product was that someone would have to rent the whole helicopter; now you can actually book a seat. In terms of the tourism experience, it will improve the experience from a helicopter point of view.”

Kariza foresees that the next destinations after the national parks will include Lake Kivu and its surrounds, as well as the cultural and historic destinations in the country.